What we’ve read so far, 2 years and 1 month

Two years and one month sounds older than 25 months, doesn’t it? Anyway, I choose not to count in months now that we’ve got more than one year under our belts. I wish I’d kept up these “what we’ve read so far” posts with even more regularity, but it’s been a little while since the last one (“What we’ve read so far, 22.5 months”). While we’re at it, I also wish I’d cribbed the title of Nick Hornby’s column in The Believer, “Stuff I’ve Been Reading.” What was I thinking? Who knows – I certainly wasn’t sleeping much when I started these.

We’re still getting big stacks of books from the library regularly, but for this post I thought I’d take a picture of the bookshelves in her room. Even these aren’t the whole picture, because we also have books for her in the living room and dining room and car and scattered pretty much everywhere, but they’re never going to be all in one place. My personal feng shui could be boiled down to “books in every room.”

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On the top shelf, we have the books that PJ Library has sent, some books that are too tall for any of the shelves, and all of our Mo Willems (Pigeon!), Spot, and Winnie-the-Pooh books.

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On the middle shelf are all the big picture books: fairy tales, poetry, Shel Silverstein, and then a mix of books from our own childhoods, books we’ve bought more recently, and books she received as gifts from friends and family. Some people shy away from giving librarians (and their kids) books, but I’ve rarely received a duplicate, and I’ve discovered some great books that were new to me: The Circus Ship; Julia’s House for Lost Creatures; Where, Bear?; Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn; Little Elliot, Big City; Nanette’s Baguette, and more. Thank you to our thoughtful, generous friends!

Some of our newer (i.e. not from our own childhoods) favorites are here: 13 Words; Bark, George!; Z is for Moose; Sometimes I Forget You’re a Robot; A Greyhound, A Groundhog; Goodnight, Everyone; Sleep Tight, Farm; and The Adventures of Beekle. And our childhood favorites as well: Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen, and Sendak-illustrated What Do You Do, Dear? and What Do You Say, Dear?; Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day; Dear Zoo; One Woolly Wombat; and Once I Ate A Pie.

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On the lowest shelf are the board books, which she still enjoys. There are some good ones to read before bedtime, like Time for Bed, Goodnight Moon, Bedtime for Chickies, and Sweet Dreams, Little Bear. There are some clusters of favorite authors like Chris Haughton and the Chu books by Neil Gaiman; there is our beloved Madeline; there are still a few touch-and-feel and lift-the-flap books; and there is some Dr. Seuss, including One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, which she calls “the counting book” (because of the page where the creature has eleven fingers) or “White Fish Green Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” (if she’s looking at the cover). There’s another box of board books nearby (lots of Sandra Boynton and others).

Some of our favorite books to read at the table are If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, If You Give A Pig A Pancake, and all of the How Do Dinosaurs…? books by Jane Yolen (those are from the library, except How Do Dinosaurs Celebrate Hanukkah?, which is from PJ Library). In the living room we have Lucy Cousins’ Yummy, a gift from a good friend whose daughter loves it too; Mix It Up by Herve Tullet; What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry; and Master-Pieces Flip & Flop, an art book where each portrait is divided into three pieces, so you can have Van Gogh’s hat over Frida Kahlo’s eyebrows and Arcimboldo’s fruit beard (for example).

I do still often switch up the gender from male to female if it’s not attached to a specific character; it’s too easy for the default to be “he/his/him,” and it’s something I am conscious of when we talk about her stuffed animals as well. It felt unnatural and forced at first, but that just proves how ingrained it is.

I’m so glad she loves reading, and reading together; it’s one of my favorite parts of the day. Her memory for books is very good, so sometimes we read fill-in-the-blank style where she says some of the words. Other times, we spend longer looking at the pictures. Even though her shelves are full, she can almost always find the book she wants to read, which means she remembers what the spines look like, too.

She also loves libraries; the one where I work is practically her second home, and when we traveled recently, we visited a different public library four days out of five, and she was always happy to go in and explore. Even though each one is different, they are all familiar, comfortable places.

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First stop on our trip, the excellent public library in Guilford, CT. Here they’re reading The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton (we love King Baby as well).

In addition to reading, she sings a lot (we get the “Twinkle Twinkle/ABCs/Baa Baa Black Sheep” medley frequently), and she’s started to love puzzles. We have a couple beginner puzzles that have four puzzles of 3-5 pieces each in one box, but she has mastered those and lately has been doing a 26-piece wooden jigsaw of animals. Ravensburger, here we come! (And by “we,” I mean her and her dad, because I don’t have the patience for anything over 100 pieces.)

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Playing dress-up.

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Playground!

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Rainy day walk

 

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Two, too

Swear to God this is two different photos from two different days:

Greyhound dog snoozing in garden sunshine

Sudo in the garden, October 20

Greyhound dog snoozing in garden sunshine

Sudo in the garden, October 22

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Two

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Apple picking at Honey Pot Hill Orchards

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Onstage! Trying out a play theater in the Little Fox Shop

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A rainy day, with a new birthday umbrella and rain boots for jumping in puddles!

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Climbing up a slide at the playground

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Birthday monster and Mama

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What we’ve read so far, 22.5 months

Once we hit 21 months, I started to say “She’ll be two in October” instead of the number of months. Plus, it helps me get used to the idea that I have an almost-two-year-old. Her new favorite activities are hopping, walking backward, spinning till she’s dizzy, singing, climbing the second- or third-most advanced thing on any given playground, and having someone lay a blanket perfectly flat on the floor, her crib, or on one of the outdoor chair cushions and then flinging herself onto it. And reading!

Book spines

Some recent favorites are The Pigeon Needs A Bath and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems, Wow! Said the Owl by Tim Hopgood, Some Bugs and Some Pets by Brendan Wenzel and Angela DiTerlizzi, Blue Chameleon and The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett, Rufus Goes to School and Rufus Goes to Sea by Kim Griswell and Valeri Gorbachev. Also pictured above: Mr. Wuffles (which we like more than she does, so far) and What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry (we have fun with the inflection of the title: What do people DO all day? The toddler just wants to see the red car and the purple car).

Other favorites (not pictured) include Goodnight Everyone by Chris Haughton (of Oh No, George! fame), One Woolly Wombat by Rod Trinca and Kerry Arnett, Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke, A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins and Chris Appelhans (illustrator of Sparky!), Dot the Fire Dog by Lisa Desimini, The Good for Nothing Button (part of the “Elephant & Piggie Like Reading series but not actually by Mo Willems), If You Give A Pig A Pancake by Laura Numeroff, and many more.

Toddler in pink helmet on scooter

Edited 9/3/17 to add: She’s also been loving these board books (and the Madeline and Olivia board books); I found Mommy Hugs at the Boston MFA gift shop and Mommy Snuggles and Daddy Dreams (not pictured because she is sleeping with it in her crib right now) at Longfellow Books in Portland, Maine. The art is wonderful, and she has learned some new animals (and she thinks it’s hilarious that horses sleep standing up):

Mommy Snuggles and Mommy Hugs

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Summer gardening, end of July

Once the heavy work of spring is done, gardening is mostly moving things around and weeding. The rhododendrons I disliked so much have been re-homed, and I hope their new owner enjoys them. In their place, I planted the three abbotswood shrubs, and they seem to be doing well so far.

Abbotswood shrubs and cedar mulch

I added some cedar mulch, which makes it look nicer and will hopefully keep the weeds down, and just today I moved the tomato buckets from the back fence to the front – the squirrels and/or birds had been stealing the tomatoes even before they ripened. I did get two sungolds and one sweet 100, and they were delicious…but I was hoping for more. Next year, I may set up a trellis behind the shrubs, or plant some sunflowers – something with some height to cover the cinder blocks.

Sweet pea teepeeThe sweet pea teepee is coming along beautifully, though no scented blossoms yet. None of the sweet peas I planted directly in the ground did very well.

I had collected the potted herbs on a shelf I could see from the kitchen window, but they needed more sun. I moved the shelf to the front porch, and the basil, thyme, rosemary, and parsley seem to be thriving in the extra sunlight.

Despite dire warnings about the invasive properties of mint, I went ahead and planted my sweet mint and chocolate mint directly in the ground along the back fence, after weeding, adding some new soil, and putting in a brick border (the house’s previous owners had left a pile of bricks in the basement). I moved the lavender there too, along with a new lavender plant and an allium purchased at the same time as the abbotswood. The two sage plants are there as well; sage is hardy so I hope it will survive the winter.

Back fence with brick border

Lavender and allium

A friend brought a yellow calla lily as a housewarming gift, and I planted it in a part-sun, part-shade area, where it seems to be doing well. I had initially planted a hydrangea on the opposite side of the yard, where we’d pulled out a small dead evergreen, but moved it to join the calla lily. There were already several daylilies growing there; I don’t think they get enough sun, so some are quite small and haven’t bloomed, but others are doing all right, and I don’t have anywhere sunnier that I want to move them.

Daylily, calla lily, hydrangea

The hydrangea arrived in a pot with three enormous pink blossoms, which I cut back once they started to brown. There is new growth toward the bottom of the plant, hard to see in the photo.

I’m pleased with how everything has come along this first year, and glad I didn’t set up any raised beds right away; it’s given me the time to move things around, see where the sun and shade are, and decide to avoid planting fruits and vegetables along our back fence, a.k.a. Squirrel Highway.

On our daily walks, I’ve been admiring everyone else’s gardens around the neighborhood, and taking photos of the plants, flowers, and arrangements I like best; I’ll write a separate blog post about those. There are a few enormous old copper beech trees as well as wildflowers, some really high-level container gardening, and more landscaped-looking yards. Gardeners, I’ve found, are a bit like librarians – they love to share knowledge and ideas, and they’re generous with advice if you ask.

 

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Summer gardening

Spring gardening, May update

Looking back over earlier posts (and the garden journal I’m keeping) has reminded me of changes large and small: shifting the arrangements of annuals around so the big pot has calibrochoa as well as verbena, lobelia, and poppies; moving the potted raspberry bush off the asphalt (it was cooking on hot days and I’ve learned raspberries like a wetter environment; the three canes a friend gave me died); hanging one of the hanging baskets; clustering the potted herbs on the front porch and on a shelf I can see from the kitchen window (though I worry the latter is not a sunny enough spot. I’m working with a lot of part sun/part shade areas).

Back yard fence with tomato buckets

Tomatoes growing in buckets along the back fence

This weekend I hope to be rid of the rhododendron; a neighbor is coming to dig them up and take them away, so I can put things we actually like in their place. Some overall goals I have for the garden are:

  • Some evergreen plants so we have a little color in winter, particularly in the front
  • Plants that attract pollinators (bees and butterflies)
  • Blues and yellows (and greens, of course)
  • Planting strategically to hide ugly chain-link fences
  • A raised bed (next year!) for the tomatoes, strawberries, and other fruits and veggies (there’s too much lead in the soil here for edible plants)
Wooden shelf with herbs

Shelf of herbs (basil, thyme, rosemary, parsley)

Rose campion and vinca vine

Rose campion and vinca vine

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What we’ve read so far, 20 months

Last weekend, for the first time, Lyra picked up a book, brought it to me, and sat in my lap…and then changed her mind, got up, took the book, sat in her little chair, and read it herself. The book was Hug by Jez Alborough, so there are only three words (hug, Mommy, and Bobo), but she turned the pages herself and said the right words at the right pages. Of course she is not actually reading, but it’s a definite pre-literacy step and very exciting!

Hug by Jez Alborough

She also participates in reading now by saying the parts she knows along with us: my favorite example of this is Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton. We say, “What will George do?” and she says, “Oh no George!” And she knows what’s under each of the flaps in the Spot lift-the-flap books, which was a little surprising the first time.

Oh No George by Chris Haughton

We’ve also started reading to her during mealtimes. Some (most?) people would say reading at the table is poor manners, but I think it is perfectly civilized.

Some of her recent favorites are:Some Bugs

  • Some Bugs, words by Angela DiTerlizzi, bugs by Brendan Wenzel
  • If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond
  • Little Pea by Amy Krause Rosenthal
  • Be A Baby by Sarah Withrow, illustrated by Manuel Monroy
  • Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke
  • Carl’s Birthday by Alexandra Day
  • The Duckling Gets A Cookie?! by Mo Willems
  • A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Chris Appelhans (the illustrator of Sparky! by Jenny Offill)
  • The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
  • Please, Mr. Panda and I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony

She’s been into music more lately as well; she especially loves listening to the Beatles’ version of “Twist and Shout” on the record player (vinyl only; iTunes need not apply), though she calls it “ABCs” (??). She will dance around with her two shaker eggs, and her parents are each assigned their respective instruments as well. She has tried to get the dog to dance and play and instrument too, but the dog is, unsurprisingly, not interested.

She has started to sing along to songs she knows; she’s been doing the “EIEIO” part of “Old MacDonald” and the animal sounds for a while, but she’s started to sing “Old Shoes, New Shoes” and “Tap Tap” (songs she brought home from daycare). One of her first sentences was “Yaya purple shoes” – it’s lacking a verb, but you get the point.

In the car she will look through board books or draw on her mini-Magna-Doodle, and she asks for “baby music,” which is what I call the CDs I’ve made her (mostly Caspar Babypants, but some Sesame Street, Raffi, and They Might Be Giants songs). I’m trying to get her to come around to the Beauty & the Beast soundtrack, but so far she still prefers CPB.

The most recent exciting development is not reading related – she has started to jump! Mostly she likes to jump off things, like our stepstool, but two feet definitely left the ground at once at the playground yesterday.

“What does a bunny do?”
“Hop hop!”

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